While rain and high winds whipped outside on a recent morning, representatives from area agencies learned about “a perfect storm,” how it impacts drug overdoses in the state and the advantages of Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT).
Two representatives from Moore Counseling & Mediation Services, of Euclid, presented a seminar to about 20 people earlier this month from different agencies throughout the region at the Mental Health and Addiction Recovery Services Board.
They said the “perfect storm” began when doctors started prescribing high doses of pain medication. In response, the state closed the “pill mills,” and regulations reduced the possibility of addicts “hospital hopping.”
Drugs continued to enter Ohio through its vast highway system as a struggling economy creating “hopeless people.” The Mexican cartels smuggled illegal drugs into the county, and heroin was inexpensive.
Butler County Common Pleas Judge Noah Powers II, one of the presenters, said no one could have known closing the state’s “pill mills” would lead to a higher heroin epidemic in the state. He called it “part of the law of unintended consequences.”
One of the speakers, Antonio Conway, from Moore Counseling, said for the past 10 years, the company has provided MAT services to clients of its outpatient treatment program. Outcome studies have shown 70 percent success rate in the use of MAT, along with outpatient treatment and longtime recovery support services, he said.
He said MAT should be the first option when dealing with addictions.
“It helps to save lives and bring family members together,” Conway said. “We’re are making some strides.”
Powers said there is “quite a stigma” about substituting one drug to reduce a person’s addiction of an illegal drug. He said people believe “you really haven’t accomplished anything by doing it.”
But he compared MET to providing someone with a broken leg a clutch to allow them to walk.
“You’re giving them the opportunity to deal with the symptoms of their drug addiction while we’re giving them the treatment they need,” the judge said.
Powers said he’s never seen a drug like heroin have such a hold on a community and impact public safety, the courts, medical facilities, schools and families. He said crack cocaine years ago was isolation to the black community, while heroin crossed every demographic.
“As bad in West Chester as it was in Middletown,” he said.
Earlier this year, U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Cincinnati, talked to Butler County leaders about the opioid crisis facing the county and country.
He praised the county’s efforts in battling the opioid epidemic and stressed the need for funds and collaboration to be used wisely in local efforts.
Portman toured the Butler County Jail and held a roundtable discussion at the Butler County Sheriff’s Office to focus on what was happening locally in overdoses, which dropped in 2018 after a spike in 2017.
“Something’s working here,” Portman told the Journal-News during his visit. “We’re saving lives, we’re making a difference so let’s keep the funding going, but also let’s provide more flexibility and let’s deal with some of these other issues.”
Butler County has received $2.9 million in grants through multiple pieces of legislation authored by Portman.
In 2017, more than 5,200 Ohioans — about 14 per day — died of an unintentional drug overdose. Butler County saw a record high of 232 drug overdose deaths.
There were 156 known fatal overdoses in 2018 in Butler County, but that number could rise as the Butler County Coroner’s Office makes final rulings in some deaths. Of those 156, 128 involved fentanyl, a fentanyl analog or heroin.
Staff writer Michael Pitman contributed to this report.
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